things i’ve been up to in May: learning to garden!

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Despite the end of the semester (and thus the end of my regular teaching schedule) at the beginning of the month, I’ve been a busy bee during May. So, now that we’re nearing the end of the month, I thought I’d play a little bit of catch-up here on the blog, starting with gardening!

Watering Mr. Zucchini

M has been very interested in growing plants and the idea of gardening, so I’m trying to let her enthusiasm carry me into the summer. I’m pretty clueless about gardening, honestly, but I’ve found friends and neighbors who are willing to give me good advice (and seedlings!) to get us started. In the photo above, M is watering the zucchini seedling that my friend surprised me with at a writing program brunch – it’s now planted in a very big pot, and seems to be doing fine.

In our other very big pot, we planted some carrot seeds:

Planted on May 17th - spotted the first little shoots of green this morning!

I don’t have a photo yet, but just this morning I spotted the first little green shoots coming up…here’s hoping they keep growing and we can actually get carrots out of this!

Since our backyard is a disaster, we don’t really have much in the way of gardening plans beyond those two big pots. Instead, I’ve adopted a bed in the new collaborative garden that I helped install with my neighbors and some United Way volunteers (who happened to be folks I knew from the U of R library, where my writing program office is located).

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Helping build a fence

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Wielding the sledgehammer

We spent 5 hours working together to build raised beds and a fence, and to move some compost into the beds…doesn’t it look fantastic?

We built all these beds AND put in the fence, working from 9am to 2pm. I had so much fun working with my neighbors!

I had so much fun working on this project!

Happy and tired, after installing a new cooperative garden with my neighbors at the local elementary school.

Our Swillburg neighborhood is collaborating with School #35, and will be helping to keep the students’ beds growing strong over the summer, as well as keeping our own beds going. The soil was delivered while we were in Ohio (for Memorial Day weekend), so now that we’re back in town, I’ve got to get over there to claim my bed, and put some seedlings in it. I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll be planting besides tomatoes, so I’m open to advice about things that would not be too challenging for a newbie gardener, and that might interest a 3.5 year old, too. And of course, it needs to be stuff we’d actually eat, so no beets (I just think they taste like dirt), but other than that…I don’t know, peppers? Eggplants? Peas? Spinach? Radishes? It’s an 8’x4′ bed, so there’s plenty of space. I am so clueless, but you can only learn by trying, right?

more stripes!

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Since I don’t have to be on campus this week (it’s finals week, so I’ve just got to read and grade my students’ Portfolios, which I can do at home!), I’m taking advantage of the gorgeous sunlight and access to my knitting projects. It is SO wonderful to be able to sit in the Poang next to the window upstairs and knit! I’ve made quite a bit of progress on my Stripes! cardigan:

Stimpy needed some snuggles.

Stimpy just can’t leave me alone when I have the camera out, so I gave him some snuggles. Here’s another photo:

Stripes! cardigan-in-progress (with cat).

I swear that the fronts actually do meet in the middle – and they certainly will once I add the zipper-facings and zipper. One thing you can tell from the photos is that the rows are long enough on this grown-up sized cardigan that the Chroma changes shade within each color band, on the lefthand side of the sweater. It’s not that bad, and I don’t really mind it, but it’s something worth keeping in mind when/if I write this up, because I’m rather small, which means that for anyone bigger than me, the color changing will be even more significant. But anyway, I’m really delighted with how it’s turning out so far!

loving this yoke.

I just can’t get enough of those garter ridges at the yoke!

can't get enough of these garter ridges!

And I actually love the wrong side of the work almost as much as I love the right one!

Color and texture, oh my!

Color and texture, oh my! I *just* had to join a new ball of Chroma (I was careful to wind off yarn until I got the color that matched, and to check that the color gradient was traveling the correct direction when I joined it), and my ball of Cascade Eco Wool is still going strong!

Stripes! cardigan-in-progress

I have so many (probably TOO many) knitting- and crafting-related plans for this summer, my first summer “off” in well over a decade, and I’m excited to share them with y’all! What’s on YOUR docket for the summer?

stripes! (with more false starts)

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The weather is finally warming up enough that I can take knitting to the playground with me to work on while M plays in the sandbox! Hooray, Spring!

Knitting at the playground

What you see in that photo is the 3rd? 4th? (I’ve lost track…it’s the “current” one, at any rate) attempt at the Stripes! cardigan I’m knitting for myself using Eco Wool and Knitpicks Chroma. After I finished Seraphim, I turned my attention to planning out a top-down version of the cardigan (as mentioned in this post). I cast on and knit the corrugated rib + vikkel braid collar at our recent Knitting Guild meeting (where Franklin Habit was the guest – he was SO FUN!), and then knit on it every evening during our nightly Parks & Rec viewing (we’re in Season 5 now – gosh, I love this show!)…

Top-down Stripes! Cardigan-in-progress for me :)

…but notice how it seems to be doing a lot of waving/kinking on the needles, and doesn’t want to lay flat? At first, I was blaming that on the needles, but no, it was the knit.

"Trying it on" (as much as one can, when its attached to cable needles that want to kink like crazy)

It just wasn’t going to work. It turns out that my brain is doing a horrible job of turning my usual “bottom up” formula for a yoke (which involves decreases) into a “top-down” formula for a yoke (which would involve increases), and I was increasing far too rapidly. So, I ripped it out and started over (again), and am slowly getting myself back to the point where it was before I ripped (it’s almost there, I just don’t have up-to-date photos). I’ve “tried” the new version on (with it on the needles) and it seems to be working much better. Here’s hoping that by this weekend, I can have a finished yoke, and start working on the body of the sweater…or do y’all think I should knit the sleeves down first?

it only took 6 years…

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Bundled up in my Seraphim shawl (angora is delightfully warm!)

I finished Seraphim in time to wear it for my birthday this Sunday! I cast on for this shawl, according to Ravelry, in Spring of 2009, only to end up shoving it in a drawer when I’d almost reached the lace patterning and not discovering it again until about a month ago. I’m so glad I finished it. Isn’t it beautiful?

I knit a very pretty triangle!

Here are the details:
Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Seraphim, by Miriam Felton
Yarn: Fly Designs Flutterby, in Turquoise
Needles: Knitpicks size 3 circulars

The Flutterby yarn was absolutely delightful to knit with – it’s an angora-nylon blend, is amazingly soft, has a gorgeous halo, and barely sheds at all (compared to other experiences I’ve had with angora). I definitely want to knit with it again sometime – it is an absolute delight to wear around my shoulders. So warm, too, which is not exactly the best given that we’re heading into Spring and warmer weather, but I run cold, and there will always be another Winter.

RealCamera shawl photo from this morning.

Blocking shawls is quite a challenge in our house, given the combination of cats, a preschooler, and hardwood floors (no pinnable surfaces!). I was able to rig up my foam tiles from Knitpicks to get enough pinnable surface area in combination with my blocking wires after M went to bed one evening last week, and then we carried the whole thing down to the basement to keep the cats away. Ooof!

Blocking. Goodness, it's hard to block lace in this house.

Alas, the angora didn’t hold the blocking all the well, and the edges are already starting to curl a bit when I wear it the way I prefer to wear triangle shawls.

Seraphim, worn the way I normally wear triangle shawls.

I may decide to add a crochet edging or something to try to counteract that, but I just don’t think it’s in this yarn’s nature to hold a severe blocking. It’s pretty even with the curling, and just so incredibly wonderful to wear around my neck.

Seraphim shawl, lace closeup

I’m not sure if I have any other partially-finished projects stashed away that would be worth finishing, but this one…this one I’m very glad I finished! It was a wonderful birthday present to myself, 6 years in the making. My birthday this Sunday ended up being fantastic – the weather was AMAZING, the service at church was delightfully music-filled, I got to blow out candles on a carrot-cupcake from the batch that A and M made while I was working my butt off giving feedback on my students’ research papers on Saturday, go to hang out with my work friends at a party that evening, and the funniest one: M slept the whole night in her own bed Saturday night, so when she woke up, I told her she’d given me the best birthday present ever by doing that. So then when she slept in her own bed the whole night on Sunday night, the next morning she proudly said, “mama, I gave you another birthday present!” Other funny thing: I jokingly told her that since our gutters (which got torn off by falling ice) were being replaced today, that they were a birthday present for me too, and so now she’s calling them my “birthday gutters”. Because isn’t that what every newly-32 year old wants for her birthday?

our low-key crafty easter weekend

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Since we celebrate the Equinox and aren’t Christian, Easter isn’t exactly a big deal in our house. But M likes bunnies and is fascinated by the concept of Easter eggs, so we had fun with those good old pagan symbols of fertility and new life. First, M drew a bunch of eggs, and colored them in:

She drew a bunch of "Easter eggs" and now she's coloring them in (while wearing her cape and cowgirl hat, because why not?)

In case you’re wondering, that’s her “superhero-cowgirl-artist” costume…she loves to combine the cowgirl hat that she got at a friend’s birthday party with the cape that I made her for Halloween so that she can be a superhero-cowgirl for whatever activity she’s interested in:

Superhero-cowgirl-artist at work.

She had me cut out the eggs as she colored them in, so that she could “put them in the oven to cook them” (the oven was just one of her baskets). I love watching her work – she’s really developed some good skills in the crayon/marker/pen-holding area in the last month or so and is getting really good at drawing and coloring!

Focused little fingers.

But we didn’t just make colored paper eggs – of course we had to dye some, too! M was fascinated by the process of dissolving the little color pellets in vinegar:

Getting ready to dye some eggs (yes, that's pumped milk in the background - we discovered a cache of VERY old stuff in our freezer and are thawing/dumping!)

She’d been talking all weekend about how she wanted to make a purple egg…

Maddy dropped 2 tablets into the same glass jar, so she's gonna get a red-purple. (Yeah, we're using a Paas kit...next year, we'll do the natural dye thing, I think!)

…so then of course, in her impatience, she threw the red pellet in with the purple one instead of putting it in its own jar, and thus killed any possibility of having a purple egg – that red dye definitely won out!

Patience is not a strong suit. (Can we dye them yet? Now? Now?)

M found it very hard to wait for the moment when we finally put the eggs into the jars to dye – and we ended up cracking one in the process. Oh well, just an extra snack! These glass jam jars (leftover from the jam that A eats) were perfect for dying eggs.

They're in!

The colors turned out beautifully dark and somewhat earth-toned, because the eggs we hard-boiled were brown-shelled. The next morning (actual Easter), she was VERY excited to find her eggs in the basket!

Enjoying "her" egg (daddy wrote her initials on it with white crayon before dyeing it)

We wrote initials on the eggs with white crayons before dyeing them, so that red one really is hers. Here’s mine:

My egg :)

Much to our surprise, M (who has gotten incredibly picky about food in the last few months) dug right into her egg – she wouldn’t eat the yolk, but the rest was gobbled right up:

Eating her egg. (I'm actually kind of shocked that Miss Picky dove into her hard boiled egg! She won't eat the yolk, but she gobbled up the rest.)

In her Easter basket, she got just three things (other than the eggs): a book (called “Pelle’s New Suit” – it is WONDERFUL!!), a whale-shaped nail brush (she loves scrubbing and goodness does she ever get gunk under her fingernails), and a coloring book.

Her low-key Easter things (we just celebrated the Equinox, after all!): a nail brush, a cute book about a boy and his lamb, and a coloring book.

She was so excited about her coloring book that she colored it with BOTH hands!

Two-handed coloring book action!

I was interested to see that her crayon grip was just as good in her left hand as in her right. Perhaps she’ll be like me (I’m sort of mixed-handed; fairly ambidextrous, but right-dominant for writing and other stuff I learned in school, and left-dominant for things like needle-threading and other stuff that I taught myself).

I was also a busy little crafter over the weekend, and knit like crazy on my Seraphim shawl, even when my lap was occupied by M…

My lap is VERY full (with M plus my knitting!)

…and last night, before bed, I finished the bind-off!

I might've knit like a crazy person today - the shawl is finished! Just gotta figure out how to block it. This thing is WARM!

I just have to figure out where/how to block it! It is beautiful, and WARM! I’m so glad I found this project after it got buried in drawer for nearly 6 years, and I can’t wait to wear it…perhaps I’ll have it blocked in time to wear it for my birthday next Sunday!

first week of spring wasn’t very springy…

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Oh, Winter, you just don't want to let go, do you?

…but I did get some knitting progress in, so there’s that. M’s school had their “Spring Celebration” on Friday, so I got some Seraphim-knitting time in during the time between drop-off and the event itself (since there was no point driving elsewhere only to not be able to park when we returned).

Knitting while waiting for the Spring Celebration to start. (Just like last year, except a different project!)

I love that this photo almost perfectly recreates the one in my blog header – same outfit, same background…just a different project! I’m so delighted with how Seraphim is turning out so far, but before we get to that, how about some cute pictures of M in her Spring Celebration outfit?

Cutie patootie with her duster.

She loves having me braid her hair and clip it up behind her hair (kind of like how I used to wear mine, back when it was long), and it looks SO cute on her! The only way I could get her to sit still was to give her a duster to “work” with…and eventually I actually got her to look at the camera!

Finally, she looks at the camera!

But back to Seraphim…I’m almost finished with Chart 2, and it is looking AMAZING in this turquoise angora yarn!

Almost done with Chart 2, backlit. #seraphim

I’m so, so excited to finish it so that I can wear it, although it’ll probably be awhile yet, since every row takes quite a long time now.

So happy with how this is turning out. Excited to finish it (eventually...each row takes forever now!)

Oh well – I’ll have it for next fall/winter, at least!

I also made progress on the stripey socks I’ve been knitting for M. I present Stripey Sock the First:

Stripey sock number one.

I am SO tickled with how perfectly the stripes worked out for the garter stitch short-rowed heel and toe! The heel seems to stay put a bit better on M’s foot than the heel-flap on the purple socks does, so I think I’ll stick with garter short-row heels (and toes) for her socks for now. And now that I know how many stripes make for a sock that fits M (over 52 stitches – the heel and toe were knit over 26), knitting Stripey Sock the Second should be a breeze!

Beginnings of Stripey Sock number 2

Here’s hoping the weather warms up in time for my birthday (2 weeks from today) – I’d love to be able to spend some time outside to celebrate!

long lost WIP

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The other day, while I was digging through a drawer looking for something else, a bright blue knit caught my eye.

So unbelievably soft

It turned out to be Seraphim, which (according to that Ravelry link) I cast on for back in May of 2009! How’s that for a long-lost project? Once I spotted it, I knew I had to finish it – the bright blue angora yarn was just too deliciously soft and I want to be able to wear it on my shoulders NOW!

So unbelievably soft. I'm excited to finish off this Seraphim that's been languishing in a drawer, forgotten since 2009, apparently!

I wanted to get knitting right away, but couldn’t find my copy of the pattern – I bought it pre-Ravelry, and didn’t have a digital copy. But fortunately, I was able to ask the designer (who I’m friends with on Twitter) and she helpfully supplied me with one. Upon reading it, I figured out that I was only about 20 rows from the start of the lace charts! So I took off:

Shawl-in-progress, in a sunbeam. This is the long-forgotten Seraphim shawl, and I'm only 3 rows from starting the charts now. This bright blue angora yarn is so lovely!

Except I actually was only 10 rows away, it turned out…but I was able to fudge the charts enough to make up for my mis-counting. I’m really delighted with how it’s looking!

Seraphim-in-progress

I can’t wait to add this shawl to my neck-adornment collection of 2015! (You know, only 6 years after I started it!)